The Div. I North boys basketball playoffs start Wednesday with Reed and Spanish Springs both finishing in the top two of the High Desert League, both earning the right to host a quarterfinal matchup.
Reed, the HDL champion, finished the regular season 21-6, 14-2 and hosts Douglas, which finished in fourth place in the Sierra League at 14-10, 9-7.
Spanish Springs (16-10, 11-5) was the HDL runner-up and also opens the playoffs at home, against Carson (12-10, 9-7) – the third-place finisher in the SL.
Both Div. I North quarterfinals tip at 7 p.m.
The Raiders start the tournament playing arguably their best basketball of the year, winning their last six and seven of their last eight.
Reed has not lost since Jan. 25, at Galena (SL champ), 60-51.
“We have just been talking to the kids that they should be proud of the regular season that they had but, you know, now that’s all out the window,” Reed coach Dustin Hall said. “Everybody is 0-0 and all we are worried about is Douglas. It’s a one game tournament for us. You have to win one game at a time.”
Reed topped Douglas 60-49 in its lone crossover meeting of the year, on Opening Night (Dec. 10) but Hall said because the game was so long ago, he is not looking at the film in preparation for Wednesday.
“I think both teams are a lot different than they were two months ago,” Hall said. “We’ll know what to expect. They’re big. They’re physical. They’re very talented. So we’ll look at their last couple games, and they’ve played well (won two of last three), so we’ll look at those and we won’t really look at the last game.”
Reed was without HDL Player-of-the-Year candidate, Trae Wells, in the Raiders’ and Tigers’ first meeting. Wells did not have enough practices to compete after playing in the state football championship game against Bishop Gorman four days prior.
In the final stretch of regular season games, Reed has used an effective full-court press to pull away. Hall said it is the effort that has been the team’s strong suit in the final few weeks.
“Our effort and energy has been really good these last few weeks,” Hall said. “We’re playing with a lot of intensity. We’re defending with a lot of energy, so defensively I think we’re doing a lot of good things.”
Hall said it is not the team’s full-court pressure or intensity however that will be pivotal to make a playoff run. Rather, it is his team’s ability to execute when the game slows down and it must run the half-court offense.
“We are going to have to clean up our execution, our half-court execution on offense as well as defense. We can still improve that,” Hall said. “But just our overall execution on both sides of the court is going to have to be better because these games are going to grind fests, slowed down, each possession is going to be magnified. So I think we’re going to really focus on cleaning up our execution and a lot of the little things.”
If Reed defends its home court, it will play Friday against the winner of Reno (HDL No. 3) and Damonte Ranch (SL No. 2).
Spanish Springs Cougars
The Cougars also enter the postseason playing some of their best ball of the season, having a three-game winning streak snapped in a tough 57-52 loss at Reed Friday.
“We have to be excited. We have a home playoff game which, you know, you work the whole season for,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “The kids have to be excited playing at home in front of the home crowd, hopefully in a tough environment for a team to come in.”
Penney said his group is playing improved defense heading into the tournament, which will be an emphasis Wednesday – particularly rebounding.
“I think that is an area where can get a lot better,” Penney said. “We guard pretty well and it’s tough when you give up second shots. We have to continue to guard really well and finish with rebounds. And we need to get some offensive rebounds with that being said.”
Spanish Springs snuck past Wednesday’s opponent, Carson, 43-42 at home two weeks ago.
“There are some things we need to get better at by watching that film. We didn’t necessarily play our best that day either but maybe Carson had something to do with that as well,” Penney said. “Carson is a very good team. They execute really well, move really well without the ball. Their offensive execution is top-notch.
“For us defensively, we’re going to have to have a good mindset. We’re going to have to be tough and we’re going to have to know what’s going on. We have to do our homework.”
Friday’s emotional five-point loss at Reed was not the ideal cap to an otherwise strong close to the season for Penney and his squad, but his philosophy is simple: time to move on.
“It’s a new season now. Everyone had fresh lives,” Penney said. “You work your tail off and the grind is over so to speak. The season is a long, long grind and the grind is over. This should be the most fun part of the season and that needs to be the mentality … It’s a fresh start for everybody and everyone is excited and everyone believes they have a chance. It comes down to can you play defense? And can you execute?”
If able to advance, the Cougars will play the winner of North Valleys (HDL No. 4) and Galena (SL No. 1) on Friday.
Spanish Springs is hosting the girls and boys Div. I North semifinals and championship game so the Cougs could have a home-court advantage throughout the single-elimination tournament.